Thursday, June 28, 2012

Theatre at Arts Garage: Cabaret Verboten (4 reviews)

The Theatre at Arts Garage opened its production of Cabaret Verboten on June 22, 2012.
In the face of the Nazi machine’s insidious advance, Germany’s Weimar era art-scene was a hotbed of music, theatre, and art that used satire and irony to expose the affected bourgeois morality of the time. While “decadent” and “degenerate” were terms Hitler used to describe whatever he found objectionable, the cabaret of the day reflected the social degeneracy, dripping in decadence and menace, as a response to what their world had become.
Jeremey Lawrence directed a cast that featured Pierre Tannous, Wayne LeGette, Lourelene Snedeker and Alexa Green

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
With brilliant but unrelieved corrosive cynicism, the musical revue at the Theatre at Arts Garage mercilessly draws unnerving parallels between the dissolute Weimar Republic and 21st Century America, bluntly underscoring how ripe we are for fascist demagoguery in a heated election cycle.
This sardonic and carnal recreation of a Weimar cabaret isn’t the light musical fare Floridians are accustomed to seeing in the summer. Many intelligent discerning theatergoers will flat out hate this show. But an equal number will be intrigued and fascinated if not enraptured by the abyss-dark humor and timely political comment. For them, this is courageous gutsy programming.
Throughout, Lawrence’s double-entendre lyrics twist and turn like depraved Cole Porter, corkscrewing so intricately that it seems like language itself has been perverted.  That same quality imbues the rhyming couplets that he gives the vampiric Emcee to introduce each number.
LeGette as the pale-faced, gaunt-eyed Emcee, is especially effective with an angry leer that says, “Well, if this is the way you want the world, you asked for it.” He smoothly delivers Lawrence’s glib patter.
Snedeker (who received a Carbonell nomination for the 1996 edition) reminds us once again with her expressive face and lithe body language how we’ve missed her ability as a musical theater performer who is equally a fine actress.
In the end, Cabaret Verboten’s power is that while it initially seems meant to be a time machine, in fact, it has the feel of an endless Jersey Shore marathon interspersed with ads for The Kardashian Book of Etiquette, set in a very recognizable post-modern Hell.  Not for everyone.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Cabaret Verboten, directed, revised and slightly updated with contemporary references by its creator, should be a perfect fit with its four-person cast and three musicians. After all, where better to present an in-your-face revue than in a place where the performers can stroll among the tables, sometimes getting unsettlingly up close and personal? But Cabaret Verboten, 2012 edition, proves a hit-and-miss affair.
Lawrence’s minimal updates, however, stick out like a sore thumb. Or maybe a bad bratwurst. A sketch titled Lost: One Small Dachshund works in a reference to strapping a dog to the roof of a car (hello, Mitt Romney) and has cast member Alexa Green donning glasses and speaking with a Sarah Palin accent, don’t ya know. That material sounds like a reject from a show by the Capitol Steps, the company that specializes in of-the-moment political satire.
Wayne LeGette is the show’s versatile emcee, a guy with a powerful singing voice and the acting chops to shift from menace to manipulation to naughtiness in the blink of a heavily made-up eye.

Lourelene Snedeker, the only holdover from the 1996 production, has a Marlene Dietrich-like world-weariness down cold. Green is at her most powerful when playing a pregnant woman who’s not that keen on becoming a mother. Tannous does well in a sketch with LeGette, but his inexperience often shows.

Michelle F. Solomon wrote for miamiartzine:
Ready for a smart night of theater? If you’re looking for mindless entertainment, Cabaret Verboten is not for you. But the musical... plays well to those who never shy away from the History and Current Events categories on Jeopardy.
There was nothing off limits to the cabaret writers then, and there’s nothing off limits still: stand your ground, unwanted pregnancy, Wall Street rip-offs, i.e. Bernie Madoff, gay marriage, cross dressing, shopaholism, and addictions of all kinds, all get equal treatment. Interestingly enough, many of these topical points come out of songs that were already in place: The Stock Exchange Song (1921), The Kleptomanic (1931); When the Special Girlfriend (1928); The Lavender Song (1920), and The Snag (1931). In fact, each song, whether peppered with a contemporary reference or left untouched recalls something current.
Wayne LeGette... plays the smarmy emcee. He also doubles as different characters throughout the show and in many sketches. However, his emcee dripped with such one-note sarcasm throughout, the portrayal rendered the character unlikeable. LeGette fared much better in the ensemble parts.
Veteran actress Lourelene Snedeker is the stand out of the cast. She’s absolutely frantic and fun as a woman addicted to shopping in The Kleptomaniac, and commands the stage in her solo, sprawled out on a settee as she sings about her vices in Shag Tobacco.
Ron Levitt, whose return key seems to broken, wrote for ENV Magazine:
It doesn’t matter if you are a Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, straight or gay, believer or non-believer,  you will get a lesson in politics, history and tolerance by  spending 75 minutes at The Theatre at Arts Garage  here , watching its musical summer production, the updated  Cabaret Verboten.
Despite its obvious title,  with songs and sketches from and about the Weimar German Republic – the time between the two World Wars –  this edition of Cabaret Verboten by  its creator/writer/director Jeremy Lawrence  is a modernized version of  the musical satire he wrote 16 years ago. Lawrence and producer Lou Tyrell – with an excellent ensemble of four vocalizing performers – somehow have managed to take the music of Germany’s years leading up to Hitler and have given it a modern twist.
A good part  of Cabaret Verboten’s  oomph  must be credited to an outstanding ensemble – award-winning vocalist Lourelene  Snedeker (who was in the original edition in 1966). The multi-talented  Wayne  LeGette (a veteran leading man who also must get some energy from his Florida Power and Light commercials),  and dynamic newcomers Pierre Tannous and b, all of whom look vivacious and alluring in costume by Erin Amico.
There are memorable numbers throughout the show, especially Tannous doing a transsexual striptease and you will find yourself  — if you are old enough — comparing Snedeker to Marlene Dietrich. The entire show is captivating and you will ask yourself how could such awful  things happen in a civilized country?
Cabaret Verboten plays at the Theatre at Arts Garage through July 30, 2012.

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